The Hug Blanket by Chris Gurney, illustrated by Lael Chisholm
A young girl and her little brother love to visit their nana. Nana bakes things with them, plays games and takes them to the beach. They collect seashells together and line the pathway home with their treasures. Nana knits blankets for them all, including special motifs within the designs.
One day nana dies, and after the funeral the little girl hugs her special blanket and cries. She realises the blanket is full of special memories that will be with her even though nana is not.
The Hug Blanket is a very special and gorgeous book. Author Chris Gurney wrote it after her own mother passed away, as a way to commemorate the love her mother had given her and her grandchildren.
The story is full of love and gently approaches a tricky topic that many of our little people have to navigate. The little girl reacts in realistic ways to her grief and the navigation of those days after a death.
Gurney is honest and open with the process that many children can find uncomfortable or overwhelming. A funeral and cemetery are depicted in the story.
Gurney uses senses throughout the story, making it easy for little readers to identify them while also helping them put their feelings into words.
Illustrated by Lael Chisholm, the drawings are bright and beautiful. Chisholm's style is instantly recognisable, thanks to Granny McFlitter. Her illustrations are full of emotion and character, yet she uses simplistic shapes to convey that.
Scholastic has also made a Māori edition available, Te Paraikete Tauawhi.
This is a book that would be a wonderful addition to any early childhood centre or early primary class, as well as being a great resource for any family grappling with grief. It validates feelings and will help provide comfort to younger family members during a tough time. It's a great book to have on your bookshelf regardless of whether you are going through grief at the time. You can't protect children from loss, but it is never too early to help them build healthy strategies for life's challenges.
The Hug Blanket is a charming and heartwarming story about love, loss and family. It is a special book with an important message that will empower families through a difficult time.
Reviewed by: Rebekah Lyell
Scholastic, RRP $19.99